Lawson takes a big step up from House Secrets (2009) with a devilishly intricate, whirlwind tale, wittily told, that...



Seminar-level thriller uses the Valerie Plame case as the premise for a dizzying pursuit of an informant.

Soon after gunmen murder Mahata Javadi, a CIA spy attempting to flee Iran, New York Daily News reporter Sandra Whitmore faces a judge in Manhattan at 2 a.m. His honor demands she reveal the source of a story that led to the spy’s murder. Jailed when she refuses, the resourceful reporter blackmails Speaker of the House John Fitzpatrick Mahoney, who is married: Get me out of here, she demands, or I’ll go public about our sordid affair. Mahoney summons fixer Joe DeMarco to figure out how to satisfy judge and reporter. DeMarco succeeds, then learns that the source Whitmore ID’d used a fake name and may be CIA. Besides DeMarco and Mahoney, many others want to know who the real informant was, and several people want him dead. One is Marty Taylor, who faces the collapse of his computer-game empire since the source revealed Marty’s company was selling Tehran equipment to help their missiles strike Israel. Hired gunman Benny Mark goes after the source, for some reason, as does a man known only as the florist, who shadows DeMarco’s every move. Enough characters and back stories for a minor Russian novel set in a maze follow, well into the book’s final third. Then the patient, meticulous reader is rewarded with swift action scenes—a three-way shoot-out in which the shooters aren’t always sure of who’s shooting at them, and Taylor’s nifty escape from thugs driving a car loaded with shovels to dig his grave. As the showdown zeroes in on the main players, a strong point lands when DeMarco’s girlfriend observes that the scores of ploys and maneuvers they’ve outwitted—sometimes by luck and timing—is the real, unseen stuff of the war on terror.

Lawson takes a big step up from House Secrets (2009) with a devilishly intricate, whirlwind tale, wittily told, that delivers a sobering message.

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8021-1937-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.


Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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